Words by Charlie Jensen
Images by Colter Freeman
Last weekend’s Creative Conversations, hosted by the Emerging Arts Leaders/LA and titled #LAStoryLab: The Potential of Storytelling Through New Mediums, was an invigorating day of dialogue and discovery organized loosely around the theme of storytelling and technology in the arts.
Kicking off the day’s events was Yuval Sharon, founder of The Industry opera company, who described his organization’s unique approach to storytelling within the sometimes-strict traditions of their genre. Sharon discussed how he approaches each work the company produces as a unique opportunity to discover how the story should not only be told, but the various ways the audience can experience it. I have to admit I completely nerded out during his conversation and all weekend long I kept thinking about how I could apply Sharon’s ideas to the events we produce at Arts for LA and also in my own personal work as a writer. By inviting the audience (or the reader, in my case) to be a participant in telling the story, can we make these stories more engaging, more relevant?
The afternoon panel discussion brought together Anna Silverman of LA2050, artist Miwa Matreyek, and iam8bit co-owners Jon Gibson and Amanda White. Their conversation was varied and interesting. Silverman discussed how LA2050, by measuring the LA region’s current vitality in eight specific areas of life, is actually hoping to rewrite a brighter future for all its residents. Matreyek, whose work combines animation, video projection, and the overlay of her silhouette in live performance, spoke of the importance of collaboration in her work, how her colleagues help her see new opportunities in the work and push her forward. Gibson and White, whose organization is both an art gallery and a for-profit creative services provider, talked about how they strive to change marketing and branding efforts to become a more narrative experience in which the participant is a critical part of making the story—much like videogames do, a tradition that has directly inspired their work. All of the panelists seemed to me to speak to the importance of interaction, echoing what I heard Sharon say in the morning. If interactivity becomes the primary goal of storytelling, I think we take the focus away from what we want the audience to learn and we as storytellers create a space where we can learn as well. That shared learning is, for me, at the core of my work in the arts.
Emerging leaders from across LA County participated in the event, which also inspired new connections, new relationships, and new dialogues among each other. The day ended with a casual reception where guests could interact with other emerging leaders and with the visionary leaders who spoke to us throughout the day. We left the event full of ideas and full of inspiration, a testament to both the importance of the arts and the promise Los Angeles holds for us all.
This was my first Creative Conversations event as the new At Large Member of EAL/LA. Since I am still relatively new to Los Angeles, I’m still meeting people in the emerging leader community. I found the day was a perfect opportunity for me to deepen some of my existing relationships with colleagues, since by and large we only get to see each other at EAL/LA events. There was plenty of time for me to catch up with what people have been up to and talk a bit about what’s new with my organization, Arts for LA, and how I’m adjusting to life in LA. I also had the chance to introduce myself to a few people whose names have been floating around me for the last few weeks. Along with the content, which I couldn’t help thinking about all weekend, moving forward with more familiar colleagues in town was beyond what I hoped to get out of this.